Thursday, November 20, 2008

Bush gives America the finger

I hope Obama's team is ready to undo Bush's voodoo. I don't really use the terms good and evil because I think they're simplistic and outmoded... so I'll settle for calling Bush corrupt and without any sense of commonwealth and no inkling of what constitutes good public policy.

The flurry of new rules - known as midnight regulations - is part of a broader campaign by the Bush administration to leave a lasting imprint on environmental policy. Some of the actions have provoked widespread protests such as the Bureau of Land Management's plans to auction off 20,000 hectares of oil and gas parcels within sight of Utah's Delicate Arch natural bridge.

The Bush administration is also accused of engaging in a parallel go-slow on court-ordered actions on the environment. "There are the midnight regulations that they are trying to force out before they leave office, and then there are the other things they are trying not to do before they go. A lot of the climate stuff falls into the category of things they would rather not do," said a career official at the Environmental Protection Agency.

Other presidents have worked up to the final moments of their presidency to impose their legacy on history. But Bush has been particularly organised in his campaign to roll back years of protections - not only on the environment, but workplace safety and employee rights.

"This is Bush trying to leave a legacy that supports his ideology," said Gary Bass, executive director of OMB Watch, an independent Washington thinktank that monitors the White House office of management and budget. "This was very strategic and it was in line of the ideology of the Bush administration which has been to put in place a free market and conservative agenda." |President for 60 more days, Bush tearing apart protection for America's wilderness - Guardian|

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Dubya gives women the finger



The Bush administration is on the verge of finalizing a controversial regulation that would just muddy employment law in the hopes of discouraging women from exercising their freedom of reproductive health.

"It's unconscionable that the Bush administration, while promising a smooth transition, would take a final opportunity to politicize women's health." The regulations will hit low-income women seeking reproductive health care the worst, allowing pharmacists to refuse birth control to Medicaid recipients and literally undo state laws that require hospitals to dispense [emergency contraception to rape survivors. |Image and text from Feministing|


What's surprising about this proposed regulation, is that even Bushies oppose it.
The protest from the [federal EEOC] commission comes on the heels of other objections to the rule by doctors, pharmacists, hospitals, state attorneys general and political leaders, including President-elect Barack Obama.

Mr. Obama has said the proposal will raise new hurdles to women seeking reproductive health services, like abortion and some contraceptives. Michael O. Leavitt, the health and human services secretary, said that was not the purpose.

Officials at the Health and Human Services Department said they intended to issue a final version of the rule within days. Aides and advisers to Mr. Obama said he would try to rescind it, a process that could take three to six months. |NYT|

I'm not surprised at this final (largely futile) gesture from the Bush administration. I wouldn't be surprised if Bush tried to get the Secret Service to burn the White House down before he left office...

The Grass Isn't Always Greener...

Open Source Government

Norway is moving to OpenOffice and encouraging government agencies to adopt open source solutions according to the Associated Press. |Reprinted in WaPo|

That's another idea that I would encourage the Obama administration to emulate.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Reslient communities & saving the automakers

In my last post I suggested we needed more resilient communities, one approach would be to have the automakers re-tool to produce giant windmills and solar cells and install them in every community in America as part of Obama's smart-grid proposal.

The new Fireside Chat



Barack Obama asks: How can we make this country better?


I think John Robb's idea for resilient communities is key to changing America for the better, see for instance this post on geothermal.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Seemingly Harmless

What Doesn't Kill The Far-Right Only Makes Them Crazier

What Doesn't Kill The Far-Right Only Makes Them Crazier is the title of Bob Cesca's article for the Huffington Post.

[O]n Monday, Michelle Malkin posted an item in which she referred to the president-elect as the "overlord-elect." And on Tuesday, Congressman Paul Broun told the AP, "You have to remember that Adolf Hitler was elected in a democratic Germany. I'm not comparing him to Adolf Hitler. What I'm saying is there is the potential." Uh-huh. On the scale of probability, "Obama is a fascist dictator" is about as likely as "Broun is a Jedi Master." But it doesn't matter. Reality is irrelevant.

The obvious intention here is to cobble together an abuse of power meme against President-elect Obama, despite President Bush and Vice President Cheney having, you know, spent the last eight years consolidating executive power, authorizing torture, suspending habeas corpus, illegally invading sovereign nations, ignoring congressional subpoenas and eavesdropping on American citizens.

Whoops. There I go again, talking about facts and treating the crazy like it's real. |Link|


Back in college I learned that trying to reason with religious people can cause them to abandon reason altogether and wrap themselves in their faith (or reality denial, as I like to call it).

So I rarely even talk to people I consider borderline crazy anymore. I avoid them.

Or I pepper spray them.

Just kidding.

Bailing out the auto makers

If the Fed's bail out the automakers, it will only postpone their inevitable demise unless dramatic action is taken.

The first action should be to kill the Hummer and all its progeny and the second action should be to license innovative technologies like plug-in hybrids and carbon fiber cars, like the Aptera.

What these startup [green] auto companies are lacking is the manufacturing and marketing muscle to bring their products to a wide public. Even in a weakened condition, GM, Ford and Chrysler still have the ability to adopt new technology and place electric or hybrid cars in showrooms across the US and around the world.

This should be part of the bargain if the US government steps in to help the automakers. The large-scale impact of the collapse of the US auto industry may be too horrible to contemplate. But, as Friedman and many others are suggesting, the companies cannot and must not try to keep going as though nothing happened.

The Big Three may not be as nimble as the startups, and change may be wrenching. But one approach that could accelerate innovation would be for the automakers to buy new technology from the startups...

If the federal government is going to sink money into US automakers, it should go to developing future technology, not propping up past failures.
|Innovation can save the auto industry - Guardian|

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Gathering Storm

Economic Treason

The audacity of the Bush administration knows no bounds. Murder, torture, and theft on a grand scale are their legacy. But it's become abundantly clear that they cannot leave office without raiding the Treasury one last time.

Secretary Paulson announced on Wednesday that the $700 billion that Congress authorized under the Troubled Asset Reclamation Program for the purchase of asset-based securities will not be used to purchase any asset-based securities. Instead, the Treasury will continue to pump money into banks. This follows on the announcement of a renegotiation of the loan to AIG on terms much more favorable to the company - and much less favorable to the taxpayer - than had been negotiated earlier. That announcement follows on the gift of $125 billion to nine large, unnamed banks. At this point it seems salient to ask, what the hell is going on? |What the Hell is Paulson Thinking? - Huffington Post|


Barney Frank is out front openly denouncing Paulson's actions:

Barney Frank, the Democratic head of the House of Representatives financial services committee, said he was "disappointed in Paulson" and called the shift in policy "an abandonment of the bill" negotiated between congress and the White House last month. |Paulson calls for US bailout change - Al Jazeera|
The funny thing about the bailout is that everyone knew it was stupid, and now Paulson is just admitting that he knew it was stupid as well.

So now he's just handing out money to banks and refusing to disclose to whom even.

Then there is the nearly $2 trillion that America's central bank, the Federal Reserve, has handed out in emergency loans. Incredibly, the Fed will not reveal which corporations have received these loans or what it has accepted as collateral. Bloomberg news service believes this secrecy violates the law and has filed a federal suit demanding full disclosure.|Ditch the smooth transition. The people voted for change - Guardian|


I doubt the Dem's will have the balls to do it, but I personally vote to see this administration tried for their crimes either here or at the Hague.

Traitors.

Delusion

The attempt to make a distinction between recovery and reform is a narrowly conceived effort to substitute the appearance of reality for reality itself.

- Franklin D. Roosevelt (1935)

Mutt


Wild Dog, originally uploaded by mngl.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Unforgiven

Unwanted as workers, underfunded as students, and undermined as citizens, minority youth seem wanted only by the criminal justice system.

- Dick Hebdige, Hiding in the Light (1988)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veteran's Day in Time of War

George Orwell observed that, "People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf."

As most of my reader's already know, my father was in the US Army for over 20 years and that has strongly colored my view of the world. I don't believe that might make right, more often than not the reverse is true.

But I think intellectuals neglect the threat of force at their peril. Cruelty is as common among young children as lying and much of human history has been written in blood. Despite its many faults, the US is a great nation and our military (and law enforcement) do a great service by defending us from those who would prey upon the weak or hollow our our government for their own nefarious ends.

There are worse things than death. Live free or die.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Evolve or Die : Transhumanism and the online bookworm

My friend Z recently mentioned the new book iBrain to me. | HarperCollins | Amazon |

There are no reviews on Amazon yet, but from talking to Z and looking at the table of contents, this book is written by a neuroscientist and explains how the web creates addictions and stimulates our brain, including the learning and pleasure centers.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Bandits


too cute...baby raccoon, originally uploaded by Kreative Capture.

Mens rea and child murderers

In criminal law, a criminal intent (or mens rea) is typically required for criminal liability.

A boy in Arizona recently killed his father and a boarder with a rifle. |AP|CNN|

First, police don't press charges, only a prosecutor does. Second, I wonder if an eight-year-old could possess the mental state necessary for a double murder.

People UK has more information here including some other recent murders/accidents involving children:


Seven years ago, 12-year old Lionel Tate was jailed for life for murder after a jury decided he beat to death a girl of six he was baby-sitting in Florida.

He was freed on appeal in 2004 and given ten years' probation...

A boy of 13 killed his mum last week as he moved a car at their South Carolina home.

In September a lad of seven killed a pal while playing with a golf club in Detroit.

A boy of four shot dead his gun collector dad when a weapon went off accidentally in California last year...

In Britain, baby Rashid Rullah died after being shot accidentally by his five-year-old sister in their Birmingham garden in September.

|Boy of 8 murders dad & pal - People UK|

Weapons are inherently dangerous and firearms are incredibly lethal, danger is their utility and their threat.

Children, on the other hand, are typically benign but bear watching.

The lesson I take away from this most recent story is that (if you own guns) it's smart to have a gun lock or gun safe and keep your guns (and/or ammo) there.

Survivalism Voting @ Wired

Wired has a top 10 list of items for outdoor survival. You can also suggest items and readers vote them up or down.

I certainly agree with the suggestion of a knife. I rarely leave the house without a folding knife. It's actually illegal to carry any sheath knife in the city of St. Paul... and they wouldn't let me bring it to work anyway, so a folder is the best I can do.

Heat


Heat, originally uploaded by myrtepeert.

Safety Propositions: Gas Stations

Police refer to convenience stores as stop-and-robs and this description fits gas stations as well, but robbery is not the greatest safety hazard at a gas station.

Accidental combustion is the greatest risk posted by a gas station, IMHO. Nobody wants to die in a conflagration. Surviving with a massive third degree burn would be torturous, as well.

Last week I pulled into a gas station and noticed that the pump's dispenser nozzle was locked into the on position. Luckily I checked it before I started the gas. I started checking the nozzle after I once saw a guy accidentally spray gasoline all over the side of his truck prior to refueling.

This habit may have saved me from being drenched in gasoline last week, which is toxic and highly flammable (of course). You would have to decontaminate before you got back in your car. Water is the natural decon agent, but you wouldn't want to pollute the sewers and ground water, so I assume you'd need to call the local FD to contaminate you... never had to do it. Knock on wood.

Only morons smoke at gas stations, but I've seen it done before. (Drive away as fast as you can.)

I don't get back in my car during refueling b/c of a risk of static discharge. If you do get back in the car (b/c of cold) be sure to touch a metal surface before putting the gas dispenser nozzle back in the gas pump.

And always turn the car completely off before fueling.

Cross-posted at my Civil Defense (CD) blog.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Follow the Leader


Waddling through a puddle..., originally uploaded by NoOtherOne.

In Utero Drinking is Good for Children?!?!

A recent study |PDF|published in the International Journal of Epidemiology turns conventional wisdom on its head by
suggesting that light drinking during pregnancy could actually be beneficial to a child's long term health and development.

From the abstract:

Children born to mothers who drink lightly during pregnancy – as defined as 1–2 units per week or per occasion – are not at increased risk of behavioural difficulties or cognitive deficits compared with children of abstinent mothers... [The study] uses data on 12,495 three year-old children, looking at the mothers’ drinking patterns during pregnancy and assessments of the behavioural and cognitive outcomes of their children... “The link between heavy drinking during pregnancy and consequent poor behavioural and cognitive outcomes in children is well established. However, very few studies have considered whether light drinking in pregnancy is a risk for behavioural and cognitive problems in children.

“Our research has found that light drinking by pregnant mothers does not increase the risk of behavioural difficulties or cognitive deficits. Indeed, for some behavioural and cognitive outcomes, children born to light drinkers were less likely to have problems compared to children of abstinent mothers, although children born to heavy drinkers were more likely to have problems compared to children of mothers who drank nothing whilst pregnant.”

The study data shows that boys born to mothers who drank lightly were 40 per cent less likely to have ‘conduct’ problems and 30 per cent less likely to have hyperactivity, even when a range of family and socioeconomic factors were taken into account. Boys born to light drinkers also had higher scores on tests of vocabulary and whether they could identify colours, shapes, letters and numbers compared to those born to abstainers.

Girls born to light drinkers were 30 per cent less likely to have emotional symptoms and peer problems compared with those born to abstainers, although this appeared partially explained by family and social backgrounds.

Dr Kelly continued: “The reasons behind these findings might in part be because light drinkers tend to be more socially advantaged than abstainers, rather than being due to the physical benefits of low level alcohol consumption seen, for example, in heart disease. However, it may also be that light-drinking mothers tend to be more relaxed themselves and this contributes to better behavioural and cognitive outcomes in their children.” |Light drinking in pregnancy not bad for children, says UCL study|(emphasis added)


I think it's important to distinguish light drinking from binge drinking, binge drinking is not healthy for the anyone... much less a developing fetus. But it seems correct to me that reasonable amounts of alcohol should be well tolerated by fetuses given the importance of alcohol to many societies across the history of humanity.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Next Steps

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Morning in America


Sparrow Berry Harvest, originally uploaded by J Bespoy.


I'm so delighted that Obama was elected President, and by a sizable majority at that!

I thought his victory speech was moving, as it reminded us of a century of American accomplishment.

I'd like to believe that the US is still a meritocracy and Obama's victory is some evidence of that, which has to be weighed against the corruption of the democratic process that we saw back in 2000.

In January we will move beyond the slogans to dealing with our problems as a nation, but I am optimistic because Obama is an impressive leader, and our only chance as a nation is if we select our best and brightest to lead us into the 21st century.

Further, John McCain's concession speech was gracious and I hope that he and President Obama will be able to work together for the good of the country.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

A different kind of plumber


watergate, originally uploaded by SarahDeer.

Palin So Dumb it Hurts

Somehow, in Sarah Palin's brain, it's a threat to the First Amendment when newspapers criticize her negative attacks on Barack Obama. This is actually so dumb that it hurts... |Sarah Palin speaks on the First Amendment - Glenn Greenwald|

Drug War Dividends: the Colombianization of Mexico

When we will end this ridiculous war on drugs? We not only could pad the Treasury with taxes from drug production, but we would deprive the narco-terrorists of the golden goose that funds their operations.

15 people murdered [in Tijuana, Mexico] during less than 72 hours in this frontier city that acts as a portal from Mexico to California ... drug cartels are waging [a war] between each other and with the authorities. The war has claimed some 2,700 lives this year, and more than 6,000 since December 2006, when President Felipe Calderón launched Mexico's first serious offensive against the cartels who have traded for decades under a measure of government protection.

The battle has been fought mainly along the 2,100-mile border between the United States and Mexico, the world's busiest frontier. As the body count has increased, so has the brutality of the killing. Corpses have been found severely tortured or decapitated, castrated, dipped in sulphuric acid or with their tongues cut out.

Dr Hiram Muñoz, chief forensic medical expert assigned to the homicide department in Tijuana, told The Observer how 'each different mutilation leaves a clear message. They have become a kind of folk tradition. If the tongue is cut out, it means they talked too much. A man who sneaked on someone else has his finger cut off and maybe put in his mouth. If you are castrated, you may have slept with the woman of another man. Decapitation is another thing: it is simply a statement of power, a warning to all. The difference is that in normal times the dead were "disappeared" or dumped in the desert. Now, they are displayed for all to see.' |Tijuana streets flow with the blood of rival drug cartels - Guardian|

Bolivia expels DEA for regime change operations

When Evo Morales was elected as Bolivia's president he made news because he was the first fully indigenous head of state in nearly 500 years, but he's making news again because he has ordered the DEA to get suspend all operations in Bolivia, on the charge that they were supporting his opposition using espionage techniques and inciting riots.

Bolivia's president has suspended the work of agents from the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), accusing them of spying inside Bolivia.

Speaking in the coca-producing region of Chimore in central Chapare province on Saturday, Evo Morales said the US agency had supported the opposition and encouraged political violence that left 19 people dead.

"From today all the activities of the US DEA are suspended indefinitely," Morales said.

"There were DEA agents that were doing political espionage ... financing criminal groups so that they could act against authorities, even the president."

He also directly accused DEA officials of disrupting government activities during the unrest in five of the country's nine departments in September by "funding civic leaders with the aim of sabotaging airports in eastern Bolivia ... to prevent visits from officials". |Bolivia halts US anti-drug efforts - Al Jazeera|
I've no idea if any of this is true, but it doesn't strike me as implausible. Given the total lack of respect for the rule of law evinced by the Bush-Cheney administration, I wouldn't doubt for a moment that they would try to effect regime change in Bolivia.

On the other hand, I wouldn't put it past Morales to use this as a pretext (true or false) to try to stop the US's war on drugs from further damaging his country.

And good for him. The war on drugs is an incredibly misguided, harmful policy in my view.

Mother Jones also has some background on these issues, with an article, a photoessay and a documentary video.